Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983
STMcC in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

If You Don't See This Movie, IT'S A CRYING SHAME!

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ON BORROWED TIME
starring Lionel Barrymore and Bobs Watson
1939
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IMdB says:
Young Pud is orphaned and left in the care of his aged grandparents. The boy and his cantankerous old grandfather become inseparable friends. But Gramps is concerned for his grandson's future and wary of a scheming relative who seeks Pud's custody. One day Mr. Brink -- an agent of Death -- arrives to take Gramps "to the land where the woodbine twineth." Through a bit of trickery, Gramps confines Mr. Brink, and thus Death, to the top of an old apple tree, giving Gramps extra time to resolve issues about Pud's future.
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Seeing as how I am the president of 'BIG BOYS DON'T CRY', the Southwestern U.S. chapter of the Bobs Watson Fan Club, it should surprise no one that I find ON BORROWED TIME (1939) to be one of the most charming black & white movies from Hollywood's Golden Era. Bobs (no, that is not a typo -- it is Bobs with an "s") was the child actor who CRIED his way through many films of the 1930s and '40s, making arguably his biggest SPLASH in 1938's 'Boys Town' (Bobs was one of the last people to visit with Spencer Tracy before his death). I felt his best performance, however, came in the whimsical TEARJERKER, On Borrowed Time, which also featured Mr. Henry Potter (the great Lionel Barrymore); Clarence Oddbody, angel second-class (Henry Travers); and Mrs. Ma Bailey (Beulah Bondi). Ah yes, 'It's A Wonderful Life', but it's 'On Borrowed Time!'
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Bobs Watson was only 8 years old when he portrayed Pud Northrup in ON BORROWED TIME, and I still think it stands as the best acting ever from a kiddie -- unbelievably believable! Bobs appeared in over 200 movie and television productions and 500 stage productions, beginning at the age of 6 months. He was renowned in Hollywood circles for having a strange knack of being able to turn the tears on and off like from a faucet. There's an old story in Filmland that the famous Academy Award-winning director, Yoey O'Dogherty, once accidentally dropped his hat and Bobs' eyes started to well up.
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But what you may not know is that poor Bobs suffered from a multiple personality disorder which eventually interfered with his acting career. He gained a reputation for being doubly hard to work with on the set, and he insisted on delivering ALL of the lines in every on-screen dialogue. He became the first Hollywood star to publicly admit to having undergone treatment at the famous Bettys Ford Clinic. Bobs was subsequently cured and released.
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Unfortunately, he suffered a relapse some years later, but found success in the music world as the founding (and ONLY) member of the a cappella Rock 'N' Roll group, THE BOBS. Bobs Watson had a religious experience while his band was on the road, touring in Damascus, and he eventually disbanded THE BOBS (amidst much acrimony and dissent from the other band members), leaving the rebellious Rock scene behind to become a Methodist minister. He returned to the silver screen in several cameo appearances later in life, including one in Ron Howard's directorial debut, Grand Theft Auto (1977), in which he played himself, the Reverend Bobs Watson. He passed away in 1999 at the age of 68. Bobs Watson was honored on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame when a star with his name engraved in it was placed at the intersection of Alvarado Street and Scott Avenue.
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Sometime after he had become an ordained minister, Bobs had this to say about his former unique ability to produce tears at the drop of a hat: "For a while, I used to worry that if I gave a really moving sermon, people would just figure that I was still acting, but I got over that... Actually, I think the ability I was known for around the studios was what has helped me the most as a clergyman. To get me to cry - which is so hard for most kid actors - all a director, or my dad, would have to do was to tell me about some terrible trouble someone was having. I could always empathize and would burst into tears. Now I just see what can be done to help the person who comes to me with a serious problem. And there is always something. You know, Jesus never ever fails us."
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My friends, if you have the opportunity, be sure to purchase or rent this movie -- it will make you laugh; it will make you cry (right along with Bobs). ON BORROWED TIME is sure to put a tear in your eye and a warm glow in your heart. Although the production values are naturally not up to current standards, this story is really quite good, and so were Bobs. I mean, so WAS Bobs.*.
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[*NOTE: My review contains a mixture of fiction and nonfiction (mostly the latter); I'll leave it to you to separate 'em. The one element of this review that you most definitely can count on, however, is that the strange duck, Stephen T. McCarthy, really does love ON BORROWED TIME, and strongly urges you to see it!]
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Official Movie Trailer: click HERE
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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16 comments:

  1. Al Bondigas here. Interesting fact: Bobs was once filming on location in Argentina and he heard Eva Peron say "Don't cry for me Argentina" and he suddenly burst into tears. She wasn't too happy about that.

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    1. Ha! :-O
      Another FUN FACT:
      One scene that was shot for 'BOYS TOWN' but which later ended up on the cutting room floor, had Bobs Watson's character enter the church and say a tearful prayer to God.

      Artie Glenn happened to be on the set that day watching the filming of that scene and it inspired him to write the famous song "I Saw You Crying In The Chapel".

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
    2. Now that's interesting. I've got another one for you. Did you know that the actor who played the part of Scut Farkas in A Christmas Story grew up with Bobs Watson and were really good friends? That scene where he was taunting Ralphie with "cry, cry baby, cry" was ad libbed by him and a nod to his great friend Bobs.

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    3. JUDGE AL ~
      Hmmm... I hadn't heard that story about Scut Farkas. Fun fact that is.

      I did know, however, that Bobs Watson had a huge effect on Eric Clapton. Although Bobs concentrated solely on his singing in THE BOBS, a lot of people don't know that he was a very accomplished, brilliant musician. And it was Bobs who taught Clapton how to make his guitar "cry".

      George Harrison of The Beatles became so impressed with Clapton's new sound that he in turn was inspired to write the song 'WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS', which in fact Eric Clapton played guitar on.

      So, unbeknownst to most people. Bobs Watson was a HUGE influence on popular music. But sadly, he was always that unrecognized musician in the background.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
    4. Sixgun McItchyfingerApril 1, 2017 at 9:53 PM

      Wow... I didn't know about Farkas OR Clapton OR Harrison! I am puzzled as to why Bobs is not more well-known than he is. A forgotten gem, that's what he is.

      But I wanted to add some trivia about another aspect of his life that gets overlooked. ( My last one, I promise.)

      In 1953, at the age of 23 and after a TEN year period since his last movie, he was really questioning the direction of his life. As you know, he later became an ordained minister. At this point he still had years of acting ahead of him even though he was in a real dry spell, but he was already developing his interest in religion though he had not settled on a denomination.

      In 1953, low on money, deep in prayer, and crying like a baby, he went to visit cousins in Syracuse, Sicily from his mother’s side of the family. They were recently married and had purchased a plaster plaque of the Virgin Mary that hung on the wall of there modest living room. Long evenings of discussion (in Italian, which Bobs spoke fluently) about God brought them all to tears… and to a deeper conviction of faith. One night the wife suffered a seizure that left her blind. By 8:30 that morning her sight was restored; when she was able to see, her eyes were on the Madonna, which, to Antonina's amazement was weeping effusive tears.

      The Weeping Madonna of Syracuse was the first “miracle” weeping Madonna officially deemed so by the Catholic church. Did Bobs visit with his cousins have anything to do with the crying statue? Who knows for sure, but in the grainy, black and white photos of the family with the Madonna, Bobs is standing there, behind and to the left.

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    5. Ha!-Ha! SIXGUN, that was a great story about BOBS, and one I wasn't familiar with. Thanks a lot for the addition! I loved all the little details in it.

      It kind of reminded of the Woody Allen movie 'ZELIG' and how Leonard Zelig could be found in the backgrounds of old pictures from different epochs. I'll bet Woody Allen got the idea from this true story about Bobs Watson!

      I vaguely recall another interesting nonfiction story about Bobs Watson's life. The details of it are a little fuzzy at the moment, but I'll return to tell that true story just as soon as I make it up.
      ;o)

      [*Best comment section EVER!*]

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
  2. I have had this on my list for so long. I am waiting one day to find it on TV since I don't have Netflix, HBO or any other special channels. I had no idea about Bobs so thanks for informing me about this great but troubled actor.

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    1. >>... this great but troubled actor.

      Ha!-Ha!
      Yeah, from what I've read, the Bettys Ford Clinic was really hell on him.

      The trouble with TV, of course, is that they'll edit a few things out for commercials, but if that's the only option, it's the only option. (You don't have any brick and mortar movie rental shops there, huh?)

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
  3. Boy, the disputes that led up to THE BOBS breakup were legendary. That guy hated each other! I think that one of he was a drug user, and the other abhorred the practice.

    I read about another of Bobs' accomplishments after the band broke up but before Grand Theft Auto. He was hired to work with the Indian actor in the Keep America Beautiful campaign. You know, the one where the Indian sheds a tear about all the trash? The guy just couldn't tear up! Apparently he was the only full-blooded Native American in the actor's guild so they HAD to hire him... but he was an unemotional, heartless jerk! He could not care less if we threw trash everywhere and poured radioactive waste in the streams. So Bobs was called in to teach him to cry. He was only moderately successful, as he could only coax ONE tear outta the guy. But that was what they went with, and contrary to all expectations, the commercial was a great success.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. SHEBOYGANBROTHER McSIXGUN ~
      Yeah, I knew the story about the Indian and the Keep America Beautiful commercial. You must have read the same Bobs Watson biography that I did.

      (HA!-HA! This is turning into my best comment section ever:o)

      I was watching a documentary about The Eagles once and it included a bit about Bobs Watson:

      You know how The Eagles once recorded a tribute song for 'JAMES DEAN'? Well, Don Henley and Glenn Frey had also once written a tribute song about BOBS WATSON.

      But what they didn't know was that Bobs had, years earlier, stolen a girlfriend away from their guitarist Bernie Leadon. Well, when Bernie found out they were doing a song tribute about Bobs Watson, he absolutely refused to play on it.

      Well, you know how The Eagles fought like cats and dogs to begin with! And this turned into a massive argument between Leadon and Henley.

      Finally, after about 6 months, Henley agreed to change the song from CRYIN' EYES to LYIN' EYES, and of course it became a huge hit.

      Decades later, Henley conceded that it had probably been the right decision to change the song, because CRYIN' EYES just didn't have the same ring to it that LYIN' EYES did.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
  4. Howdy, Reno!

    I think I'd enjoy this movie but, "where the woodbine twineth" and "subsequently cured and released" had me searching for shadows in the dark ;-)
    Loved that fun fact about "Crying in the Chapel"

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    1. Howdy, dIEDRE ~
      The movie is truly great. When they say, "They don't make 'em like THAT anymore", THIS is the sort of movie they have in mind.

      However, the percentage of my statements in this review and in this comment section that you should take seriously does NOT even go "up to eleven".

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
  5. I'm surprised I've never heard of this movie, or Bobs Watson (although his face is definitely familiar). That's an interesting story about his life. Looking further, apparently his siblings were child actors as well; a real family dynasty. This is going on the list of movies to watch. Thanks, Stephen!

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    1. DEBBIE ~
      What surprises ME is that this review, after being only 2 days old on this blog, has already climbed to #2 on the top 10 most "Popular Posts" list. WTH?! I've never thought of it as anything more than a "throwaway" review, even though I do abbalouly love 'ON BORROWED TIME'.

      Hmmm.... Maybe readers prefer it when I don't REALLY review something, but just invent a bunch of nonsense about it. Ha!
      :o)

      Anyway, tomorrow or soon (anyway) I'm going to post the one review that I got more negative feedback to than any other review I ever wrote. It's bound to be ultra political - religious - racially inflammatory, right?

      Wait 'n' see.
      (It still baffles me.)

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
  6. Stephen,

    I haven't heard of this mewie but I think it would be a good one to watch. Bobs was an interesting character with an interesting life - kid star to clergyman with an odd twist in the middle. You do a great job giving reviews! Thanks for popping in for my #AprilA2Z Art Sketching Through the Alphabet series with the letter "A" (Angels) and #BoTB showdown. Have a good week, my friend!

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    1. Thanks, CATHY. Glad you liked the review. I bet you would LOVE this movie.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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